Batman Takes on the Ultimate Evil
By Jane Ciabattari
Originally published in Parade Magazine, October 22, 1995.
"You steal childhood itself," shouts an outraged Batman in Batman: The Ultimate Evil. In the new novel—due out Nov. 7 from Warner Aspect, with a simultaneous comic-book adaptation from DC Comics—the Caped Crusader is on the trail of children who were stolen or sold by their families into sex slavery in the fictional Southeast Asian nation of Udon Khai.
The author, Andrew Vachss, hopes Batman will help him reach a new audience with his crusade against child abuse. "I want to do something to fight that evil in Thailand," says Vachss, who has exposed child sexual abuse for 30 years as a social worker, lawyer and novelist. "Batman is a myth. The kiddie sex trade is no myth. Thailand earns $1billion a year. It's the chief industry."
The term "child prostitution" is a lie, adds Vachss. "Prostitution implies a willing exchange of sexual favors for money. These children are controlled by adults. How can they willingly do anything? They are worse off than POWs. These children have nobody. Most die before they reach adulthood."
Vachss suggests a boycott to send the message from America: "Just don't buy Thai. That is striking a blow for the protection of those babies. Toys, dolls, some brands of sneakers and clothing—if it says, 'Made in Thailand,' don't buy it, and tell the store why."
But Vachss doesn't stop there. Even in the US, he says, our attiudes and language bear scrutiny. Children are not "seduced," and teens who have sex with their teachers are not "Lolitas," argues Vachss. "Children are sensual creatures who respond to being cuddled and kissed. It is a moral responsibility not to take advantage of that. The molestation of children is inexcusable and poisons our whole society."